There used to be a certain stigma that came with wearing a tattoo. In some parts of the world, people with visible body art were viewed as less-than-upstanding members of society. However, nowadays tattoos have found much more mainstream acceptance. But the stigma still remains somewhat. However, researchers from MIT and Harvard Medical School have found a way to make tattoos more than just pretty body art. DermalAbyss is a project that replaces traditional tattoo ink with biosensors that respond to pH, sodium and blood sugar levels by changing color.
According to a post on MIT’s website, DermalAbyss is a proof-of-concept that presents a novel approach to bio-interfaces in which the body surface is rendered an interactive display. Traditional tattoo inks are replaced with biosensors whose colors change in response to variations in interstitial fluid. It blends advances in biotechnology with traditional methods in tattoo artistry.
There are countless ways in which this technology will be useful. A diabetic, for example, would simply check his tattoo for a sign of changes in his blood level. Normally the patient would have to use a blood level monitor, which would prick the skin. With DermalAbyss, a higher blood level would be indicated by a color change from blue to brown, which is much simpler.
You can also watch out for dehydration using this technology. In this case, when salt levels increase it converts a sodium-sensing ink to an intense green color under ultraviolet light. Furthermore, a pH sensor changes from purple to pink when it detects changes in alkaline levels.
The researchers have no current plans to develop DermalAbyss into an official product yet. However, the team is hopeful that the project will foster public support and light the imagination of biotechnologists.
Harvard Medical School researcher Ali Yetisen had this to say about the concept:
“We wanted to design a system that can overcome [health] challenges with wearable systems. . . we envision that this technology will open new avenues in the development of real-time sensors and will go beyond wearables”.